There are many contenders for the most famous newspaper headline of all time, and many of them are triumphs of the journalist’s art, skilfully capturing world events for posterity. A few among them are as much infamous as they are famous, headlines a newspaper might wish to suppress had they not been for all to see on every newsstand in the country. Perhaps the most obvious one in this category for Brits comes unsurprisingly from the Daily Mail, whose owner the 1st Viscount Rothermere exclaimed in print in January 1934: “Hurrah for the Blackshirts!”. His open support for Hitler and for Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists was toned down as events unfolded, but the headline remains to remind the world that the Mail was and is tainted by support of far-right causes.
A Community Mourns
As this is being written, the trans community in the UK stands in mourning for one of our own who was brutally taken from us. Brianna Ghey was a 16-year-old who was stabbed to death in a Cheshire park by two other teenagers in a transphobic attack. Her tragic fate comes against the backdrop of a long-running campaign of institutionalised anti-trans hate speech, and is the inevitable result which many of us have feared for years would come. The knife was wielded by her attackers, but for the trans community there is no doubt. In a Britain without a media and political establishment with us firmly in its sights, Brianna Ghey’s life would have been much safer and she would still be with us.
There’s a phrase you sometimes hear in British public life, “The Great and the Good”, meaning a Who’s-Who of the upper echelons of power and influence. Of course many people would argue that it’s a misnomer as few of them are truly either great or good, but it’s fair to say that among them you’d find senior politicians, journalists, and other prominent figures. It includes newspaper editors such as Katharine Viner of the Guardian, or Ted Verity at the Mail, just two of the many papers that have gone out of their way to platform vile hate speech against the trans community. Or how about consistently transphobic Members of Parliament such as Women and Equalities Committee members and alumni Rosie Duffield, Jackie Doyle-Price, and Mark Jenkinson? Staying in Parliament even the Minister for Women and Equalities Kemi Badenoch, holder of a post which is supposed to provide representation for the trans community, is known to have well-documented transphobic views.
The above paragraph contains merely a snapshot of the institutional capture by transphobes of the British Establishment. There’s hardly a political viewpoint or media outlet not tainted by it or that has not tolerated hate speech within its ranks, there is no player who is blameless when it comes to the targeting of trans people. While Rothermere’s support for fascism in the 1930s put him out on a limb, here in the 2020s there are players on all sides who have unquestioningly given a platform for hate speech against our community. As far as trans people are concerned they all have Brianna Ghey’s blood on their hands, and our worry is that before the transphobia is rooted out for good there will be many more like her.
What Did YOU Do When They Came After Trans People?
All those people mentioned as the Great and the Good, as well as all those too numerous to list whose views align with theirs, undoubtedly have a high opinion of themselves. They no doubt see themselves as successful people at the peak of their careers, and they imagine that they are laying down for themselves a legacy. Perhaps there will be a portrait of the great editor on the wall in the newspaper boardroom, or for the MPs even a Prime Ministerial portrait gracing the staircase at Number Ten. But how is it really going to go for them, in a few decades time after the current explosion of hate has been played to its bloody conclusion and when the sinister ideology behind the transphobia has been exposed for what it is? It’s unlikely that many people will discuss the 1st Viscount Rothermere in the 2020s without his writing in support of fascists being front and centre, and similarly it’s likely that for these people their active participation in an environment which led to the deaths of trans people will be the first topic in their legacy. It’s pretty obvious that some of them want the elimination of trans people, but do they really think they’ll get away with a spotless legacy? Perhaps some of them need to consider that.
In the 1930s the German trans people who were murdered after the raids and famous book burnings at Berlin’s Institut für Sexualwissenschaft had nobody to speak for and remember them. Ninety years later that is no longer the case, and whatever happens as the far right pursue their campaigns against trans people in the UK or the USA, there is a worldwide community who will ensure that those who enabled them can not fade away and pretend they weren’t really part of it. Trans people won’t go away, they will keep the receipts, and you can depend on it, they will ensure eventual justice for any victims. A few of the would-be Rothermeres should think on that.